Authors: Robin Mahle
A Kate Reid Novel
By Robin Mahle
Published by HARP House Publishing
August, 2015 (1
Copyright ©2015 by Robin Mahle
All Rights Reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form, by any means, including mechanical, electronic, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the publisher, except by a reviewer who wishes to quote brief passages in connection with a review written for inclusion in a magazine, newspaper, or broadcast. The characters and events portrayed in this book are fictitious. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is coincidental and not intended by the author.
Cover design: LLPix Photography,
Laura Wright LaRoche
Editor: Hercules Editing and Consulting Services
he door began
to buckle under the weight of the master key, a heavy metal battering ram intended to tear it from its hinges. The thieves were somewhere inside, behind that door, inside the shop’s storage area. Kate was positioned next to her partner, gun drawn and donning full tactical gear—black flak jacket, and a bulky helmet that hindered her vision. A horse wearing blinders sprang to mind. Another thud from the key sent wooden splinters flying and the door finally gave way.
Will Caison was the muscle behind the key and he lowered the metal cylinder to the ground and drew his weapon. The two stepped over the threshold, walking around the fallen door.
A flip of the light switch at Kate’s hands—nothing. “Power’s been cut,” she whispered.
The noonday light disbursed through the storefront window and cast enough grey light along the back corridor to guide them.
Will raised a hand at the sound of hushed voices arising in the distance. He looked to Kate and pointed a black-gloved finger in that direction. Cautious steps came from each as they moved forward, prepared for a confrontation.
Kate’s breath hung inside her helmet, and the acrylic shield fogged momentarily before clearing again. The weight of her gear, a hefty addition to her slight frame, made stealthy movements all the more difficult. That familiar claustrophobic feeling settled over her and she became short of breath. This was the third time operating inside the gear and it hadn’t gotten any easier. Her partner appeared to move with ease and Kate was determined to keep up.
Will raised his hand again, signaling a cease in their movements. He turned to the right and peered inside a darkened room; an office or perhaps a second, smaller storage area. Again, he pointed his finger in that direction and took the lead.
Their covert movements, however, did little to disguise their arrival. Gunfire erupted, lighting up the dim room and illuminating the occupants as they scattered to shield themselves from the onslaught.
“Take cover!” Will found shelter behind a masonry column.
Out of the corner of her eye, Kate caught sight of movement. Raising her weapon, she took aim at one of the suspects, but it was too late. A laser landed on her chest and triggered the light embedded in her jacket. She died a simulated death.
The fluorescent lights above lit up instantly and the training exercise was over.
Will raised his face shield. “I got hit too.” He pointed to the flashing red light on his vest.
A voice boomed over the loudspeaker, “Reset!”
Kate pulled off her helmet. “Goddamn it!”
“Can’t win ‘em all. Better luck next time.” The actor hired to portray one of the criminals approached and patted Kate on the back before leaving the room.
The inclination to punch the guy square in the jaw briefly consumed her, but the moment passed, and it was hardly the actor’s fault. She’d failed the test and it wasn’t the first time.
Kate’s academic scores were near the top of her class, but if she didn’t pass this segment of her training, there wasn’t much point in going any further. It had been ten weeks since she’d entered the FBI training program at Quantico and she had only reached the halfway mark.
The place called Hogan’s Alley, an advanced training facility that offered these types of drills to not only FBI trainees, but DEA trainees and other law enforcement, was a fictitious replica of Main Street, America. Kate carried her helmet beneath her arm and stepped off the curb onto one of the streets in this fabricated town. Today’s training scenario involved the robbing of the town’s bank where the suspects fled and hunkered down inside the sundries shop that now needed a new door. And so far, Kate had failed the three exercises in which she’d taken part, each time ending with the flashing light on her chest telling her that she’d just died. Good thing it was only make-believe.
“You’ll get ‘em next time.” An agent whose job it was to help train the NATs, or new agents-in-training, approached Kate and offered words of encouragement.
She smiled in response and, while the words were appreciated, they just made her feel worse. And it was only a matter of time before her mentor and friend, Supervisory Special Agent Nick Scarborough, would reach out to offer consolation. He followed her training closely and had been a welcomed sounding board for her, but his help could only do so much. The success or failure at the Academy rested solely on her shoulders. And she’d begun to question her abilities.
Will pulled the straps off of his vest as he caught up to Kate, who was still standing in the street. “You want to grab some lunch before heading to class?” He looked out among the passersby, hands at his waist, but did not look her in the eyes, instead joining in her surveillance.
“Sure.” An unenthusiastic reply that alluded to her current “woe is me” mood.
The functioning deli, only a block away and still inside Hogan’s Alley, was where many trainees stopped for a quick bite before moving on to other aspects of their training.
“Can I have a Reuben, please?” Kate stood at the counter, perusing the deli’s limited offerings. “And a diet Coke.”
“I’ll take a ham and Swiss on sourdough and a Coke,” Will said.
A small table against the front window offered a view of the makeshift town and was the desired location from which to enjoy the likely unhealthy, but delicious-looking sandwich. She stared out among the many purposeful people heading in all directions and the idea came upon her. Was this all within her reach? Even her firearms training was above par, but her reaction times during the tactical drills were appalling. She’d expected that to have been the easy part. There’d been enough times when her life had
been in danger and she’d figured a way out. This should have been a breeze, but it was her nerves, frayed over these incidents, that still clouded her judgment and prevented the successful completion of the scenarios.
Will pulled out his chair and brought Kate’s attention back to the moment. She turned to see him place his tray on the table. “Kate. Come on. You know they’re not going to kick you out for this alone. Hell, I think you’ve probably got the best academic scores out of all of us. Don’t let it get to you, okay?”
He was young, twenty-seven. Younger than Kate, although not by much. Her thirtieth had come and gone with little fanfare. That was shortly before the move to Virginia and the new life she’d hoped to start—was waiting to start. Will had come right out of the military, having served in Iraq, and now his only goal was to work in the FBI’s Counterterrorism Unit. His tour in the still war-torn country was likely the reason for his success in Hogan’s Alley.
Most of her classmates had advanced degrees, were in previous law enforcement, or had served in the military. So here comes Kate Reid; the girl who escaped, the woman who misfortune seemed to follow. They all suspected she got into the program because of her friendship with the veteran Agent Scarborough—and because of previous media attention. She went through the same rigorous screening process they had, but that didn’t seem to hold much water, so far as she could tell. And while they did sympathize to a degree with her past, that sympathy had begun to wane after she’d failed her first two case exercises. Now with number three having been woefully unsuccessful, she could almost hear the “I told you sos.”
Consequently as she looked into the eyes of this eager, younger man, who was undeniably handsome – although those types of assessments meant little to her at this point in time – she wondered if she would be able to survive this as she had so many other challenges in her life. “I don’t know, Will. It shouldn’t be this hard. It isn’t for you.”
“It’s supposed to be this hard. That’s why only the best make it through. You know the old saying ‘if it was easy…’ And give yourself some credit here. You’re kicking my ass in the classroom and, frankly, you can hold your own on the target range too. So, don’t be too quick to dismiss your abilities. It’ll happen, it’ll click for you.”
“I guess I’ll find out soon enough.” The Rueben was piled high with corned beef, but Kate managed a bite of it anyway. They didn’t have much time before they had to be back in the classroom and so she didn’t bother to continue with the circular discussion of her skills. Time would tell.
» » »
Kate dropped her keys onto the small foyer table as she walked inside the home she’d been renting since her arrival in Virginia nearly four months ago. Nick had helped her to find this house in Woodbridge. It was a short distance to the base and he lived only ten minutes away. She figured that was the real reason why he steered her to this place. Someone was always trying to look out for her, but Kate suspected he wanted to be close out of guilt. Nick had nothing to do with Marshall’s death, but she knew he felt responsible and had taken it upon himself to look after her, just as Marshall would have.
She’d reached the point in her training where she’d been allowed home on the weekends and was glad Saturday had arrived. Most of the day was spent on base—they still had to train, even on Saturdays, but Kate needed to sleep in her own bed tonight, away from the questions her roommate would hurl at her regarding Hogan’s Alley. During the week, she slept in a dormitory on campus. Jocelyn Munoz was her roommate and Kate liked her, but still felt inferior to her due to the woman’s background. She was around Kate’s age, thirtyish, and had come from the New York City Police Department. She had worked in white-collar crimes and wanted to do the same for the Bureau. Kate made an effort to get to know her better, but Jocelyn had a family—a husband and two young kids. And so any free time they’d had would find Jocelyn on the train back home to New York to be with her family.
Kate pushed off her tennis shoes and dropped her handbag onto the table before walking in sock feet towards the kitchen. It was late, too late to eat dinner, and she certainly didn’t have the energy to cook. Cooking was never her strong suit anyway and since she lived alone, she never saw much point in cooking for one.
The refrigerator door rattled when Kate pulled on its handle. Too many bottles, mostly white wine, but a leftover beer or two shifted inside as well. An opened bottle of chardonnay waited for her inside. Hardly a single glass remained, but pouring what was left, she then opened a new bottle and filled it the rest of the way.
A large sip of the chilled buttery goodness washed down her pallet and the flavor soothed her nerves. Now she could settle in for the night and retreated to her bedroom to pull on her sweats and try to relax before heading off to bed. She returned to the living room, where her wine waited on the side table next to the couch. A brief glance at her cell phone that rested next to it told her she’d missed a call from her dutiful friend, Nick. “Sorry, Nick. I’ll call you back tomorrow,” she said before returning it to the table.
Some time had passed, although she was unsure exactly how much, but Kate was ready to turn in. A deep breath filled her lungs as she pushed herself up and a momentary vision of a younger, more naïve Katie Reid surfaced in her mind’s eye. She was standing in a parking lot, explaining to Marshall, then only known to her as Detective Avery, that she was interested in cold case research. It felt like a lifetime ago, but it was instantly recalled as if it had happened yesterday and for seemingly no apparent reason. It was a common occurrence, welcomed at first, until awareness set in and she remembered he was gone. The faint smile quickly faded from her lips when a knock sounded on her front door.
“Kate, it’s Nick,” the muffled voice strained through the door.
She closed her eyes, annoyed by the disruption, but half-expecting he would show up. She shuffled to the door, turned the deadbolt, and pulled it open. “Nick? What a surprise.” She stepped aside.
“Come on now.” Nick began to walk in. “I knew you weren’t going to answer your phone and so I figured I’d just stop by.”
Kate extended her hand towards the living room. “Have a seat. Can I get you a drink? Water, a beer?”
Nick hoisted his pants and dropped onto the couch. “No thanks. I can see you’re ready for bed and so I won’t stay long.” On her return, he continued, “Why didn’t you answer?”
But before she had a chance to reply, he simply raised his hand. “Forget it. I know why, however, I can tell you that if you had, I wouldn’t be here now when you so clearly do not want me to be.”
“It’s not that. It’s just—are you here to tell me everything’s going to be fine? Don’t bother, okay? I’m all right. I’ll manage.” She tipped the wine glass to her lips.
“I have no doubt about that, but I’m actually here on another matter and if you’d have answered your phone, you would have known that.”
Now he was just trying to make her feel bad. “Sorry, Nick. I was just tired and didn’t feel up to chatting. What is it?”
“I talked to Agent Hawes about your test scores.”
Supervisory Special Agent Hawes was one of her instructors and, while that wasn’t the unsettling part, what seemed to be coming, she feared, was a move to pull her from the program. “What’s going on? Is this because of what happened today?”
“Look, I’m not gonna lie to you, your operational training is critical. That being said, as you’re only halfway through the program, they are still holding out hope, as am I, that you will find your footing. What’s important here is the real reason why I needed to talk to you.”